Few odors are as pleasing as “new car smell”—and not just because it’s nice to be in a brand new car. The scents trigger such a rush of positive feelings all at once, that many new car owners wish the smell will stay forever! It then begs the question, what is the secret of the new car smell?
The new car smell is pretty much just a combination of 50+ chemicals (known as “volatile organic compounds”) that are released into the car slowly, until they are decayed over time.
When you buy a new car, much of the vehicle is composed of things like latex, polyurethane, and plastic, all of which produce the “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs). These are chemical by-products created by everything from plants to plastics that have a high rate of particle release at room temperature.
That steering wheel? It’s plastic. That carpeting? No doubt packed with plastic fibers. Those cushy seats? Polyurethane foam. Literally all of those individual components roll off their respective assembly lines releasing fresh VOCs into the air, officially known as “outgassing.”
All those concentrations combine to produce that irresistible new car smell. They do break down quickly, to the tune of about 20% decay every week, so the smell doesn’t linger all that long.
That’s why the smell has a special name. You now know the secret of the new car smell.